The root of our wealth is not in our income or our spending; it’s in our behavior. Our habits make us wealthy, not the markets. Some have said that sound financial management comes down to spending less than we earn – but whilst this adage holds merit, it’s a lot more complicated in practice.
It’s complicated because people are complicated.
It’s not helpful to tell someone who is already relying on credit to get through the month, to spend less than they earn. Most often, in our experience in the financial planning profession, people find themselves in debt because life throws a curveball they weren’t expecting, and despite prudent planning, they have had to incur to make ends meet.
We need to stop feeling guilty for having debt, and we need to find ways to sustainably work towards healthier finances. This is difficult to manage when we have people telling us that we need to “save for a rainy day”, “invest for the long term”, and “pay down our debt”.
What we need is people telling us that where we are right now, having decided to improve our financial situation, is an excellent place to be. It’s a good place because our intention is right – and when we set a good intention, we can ensure that energy and resources flow towards that intention.
Saving and investing form part of this, but not often how we expect. Saving and investing are actually only powerful when we can form them into habits. Remember, the root of our wealth lies in our repetitive behavior.
Saving and investing have many different features, but they do share one common goal: they’re both strategies that help you accumulate money. They allow us to consider what might happen tomorrow and ensure some of the money we may need will be available.
It’s helpful to think incrementally when talking about planning for tomorrow’s financial needs. If we hold an idea that we’ll make a bulk deposit into our savings or investments, we unconsciously do two things: we put it off until we think we have enough, and we see it as a big-in and big-out deal (kind of like a get-rich-quick scheme).
But, if we hold to the premise that wealth is built through good habits, we can start to see that both saving and investing work best when practised a little bit at a time. This means we don’t have to put it off; we can put a little bit aside each month – whatever we can afford. The amount is far less important than the habit we’re trying to develop. And, we’ll be less likely to make significant withdrawals on our savings and investments because we can appreciate how long they’ve taken to accrue.
Whether through our savings or investments, building wealth is best done, one brick at a time. This is how we build a firm foundation for healthy financial planning.